Yesterday was a good day for GIP. One of our clients is going to get DNA testing done on the evidence in his case. This is big news. Victories are few and far between in post-conviction cases.
GIP Staff Attorney, Christina Cribbs, did an amazing job during the hearing on our Extraordinary Motion for New Trial. She was so poised and confident (although she admitted after the hearing that she was scared). Her argument was well thought-out and brilliantly delivered.
What was so great about the hearing though, was knowing that the judge actually understood the issues. One of the elements we must prove to get testing is that the identity of the perpetrator was a significant issue at trial. The prosecution’s position was that identity was not an issue because the victim and another witness identified our client. Christina pointed out the fact that the police had to have someone identify our client meant that identity was an issue. In fact, in this case, it was the only issue. When the prosecutor was arguing that identity was not an issue because the witnesses were able to give a description, participate in a composite sketch, and ultimately identify our client, the judge pointed out that in most DNA exonerations, witnesses were able to identify the defendant. That’s how they get convicted! He asked the prosecution why their witness was so special. The judge really got it – if the conviction relies on an eyewitness, identity is a significant issue.
The sad fact is that we’ve lost cases on this issue. Judges find that identity is not an issue even though it is clear that the victim did not know the perpetrator and the prosecution had to rely on eyewitness identification to secure the conviction. If an eyewitness is necessary, well, that’s really the definition of “identity is an issue.”
Judge Goger, Fulton County Superior Court, granted our motion from the bench. He got it. Maybe other judges should read his book Daniel’s Georgia Criminal Trial Practice, Thompson
Interesting note: The prosecution’s case was argued by Emory 3L, Darrel Ambrosini. Darrel interned at GIP last Fall. (Yes, we believe that is a conflict. Our client waived it.) The judge complimented Darrel on his presentation style after grilling him about his arguments. I’m proud that GIP is training the next generation of prosecutors. Maybe they will use their skills and education to ensure that no one is convicted of a crime they did not commit.